Smoking Out the Terrorists
G-Man Pat D'Amuro is helping the FBI wage war on America's enemies but still finds time to light up
From the Print Edition:
Greg Raymer, Sept/Oct 2004
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"I think [the best time to smoke is] when you've got a lot of friends around and you've had a great meal and you still have some wine to finish up and the bottle of Port comes out afterwards," the G-man explains. "I have a Florida room and that's the only room in the house where I'm allowed to smoke, because it's got five sliding doors that I can open up whenever I need to. So I would say after a meal with some friends having a cigar is my favorite time. But there's never a bad time. On the golf course. But on the golf course I find I don't go for the real great cigars because I don't really enjoy [them] as much when I'm walking around, but after the round of golf, that's when you break out the really good cigars. Also, driving home."
D'Amuro remembers one drive home from the office several years ago and an experience with a Paul Garmirian cigar, a PG Belicoso that had been given to him by his boss, John O'Neill. (O'Neill, thought to be one of the FBI's most knowledgeable experts on Al Qaeda, died on 9/11. He had retired from the FBI New York office as head of counterterrorism and become the head of security for the World Trade Center. He was on his second day on the job at the Twin Towers.) D'Amuro was driving home on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway when he saw a commotion up ahead.
"I saw this guy on the shoulder shove this woman and then go across [their] van, and I couldn't see him, and she went after him and I thought they were going to get into a fight," recalls D'Amuro. "So I put the light on the car and jumped out of the car. Apparently this van had cut this guy off and he was just beating the crap out of this guy in the van. So I go up there and I've got this PG in my mouth and it's got about an inch of ash on it, and I tell him, FBI! Stop!' Of course, he's not listening, so I grab him by the back of the collar and I put him on the front of the hood of my car. Thank God there was a police unit right behind me throwing on his lights, getting out to assist. I said, Stay there. FBI. Don't move.' Everything got resolved. I get back in the car and I notice the ash is still on my cigar.
"I didn't call Paul [Garmirian] immediately. John told him the story. He reminded me of the story the day he opened up the shop. He told that story to his customers." (Garmirian owns McLean Cigar PG Boutique, which opened this April in McLean, Virginia.)
Although D'Amuro is very fond of PGs, not to mention a friend of the manufacturer, he delights in mixing up his repertoire. "The Padrón Anniversary series is one of my favorites," he says over lunch. "You know, I haven't had many of them, but I think the Ashton VSGs are very good. Truthfully, I like trying a lot of different cigars. I like variety. I don't like sticking with the same cigar all the time. But I always seem to come back to the PGs and Padróns."
Like all cigar lovers, D'Amuro can remember special moments and what he was smoking. Once, after the discovery of a few pipe bombs, he and another agent, also a cigar smoker, had to run up to the Bronx, where they found a receipt for a storage facility on the West Side of Manhattan. The incident turned out not to be terror-related, but something having to do with a drug dealer who wanted to eliminate the competition. "The PD [police department] shut down the West Side Highway at rush hour, five o'clock. It was an unbelievable sight. My boss had a million and one questions and we had answers for all of them, so he handed me a PG and we were smoking cigars, watching the traffic on the West Side Highway."
Also like many cigar smokers, D'Amuro's first cigar was with his father when he was in his late teens. "I can still remember turning green, but after that first cigar and after that first experience, when I was in college I would sit down and have a cigar with him or have a cigar and a Scotch. That's how I started. I can't remember what the very first cigar was, but I remember it was green because I turned green. This was back around '75, '76."
Nonetheless, he was hooked.
"I got in the bureau in '79 and came to New York, where I smoked cigars regularly. I started in a reactive squad with some old-time agents. One of the agents we called Ashes because of the holes burned in different articles of clothing," D'Amuro recalls. "At that time, I think they used to smoke more cigars than they do today. But through the years, just routinely we would have cigars, and the taste would improve as time went along. And then you got into much better cigars. And in the early '90s when cigar prices just went through the roof, we would find a way in the office of getting some very nice cigars."
D'Amuro's father is now smoking some very nice cigars, too, ones that don't turn you green, thanks to his son, although he still smokes the mass-market cigars when he runs out of the premiums. "The problem is he won't go out and buy the real good ones. He waits for me to send them to him," D'Amuro says with a laugh. "My sister told him one time at Christmas, I called Pat up and told him he was crazy for spending that much money on cigars and that he shouldn't buy you a box for Christmas.' And he looked at her—and you know that in an Italian family, the daughter is like the father's jewel, you don't touch her—and he said, Mind your own business.' So, he's due for a couple of boxes. He likes the PGs. He likes the Padróns. He pretty much likes what I like."
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